BENCHMARKS counts on 29 partner organizations. Six universities and nine research institutes with a strong track record in soil health research and a history of involvement in relevant policy initiatives. These include the Soil Mission Board, EUSO data and monitoring working groups, and the European Soil Partnership. Together, these partners form a strong, pan-European consortium with a wealth of scientific expertise in the field of soil health. In addition to its scientific expertise, the consortium includes partners with a focus on implementing practices to improve soil health and citizen science as well as organizations that work on policy development.
The consortium is also supported by an advisory board coming from a wide range of prestigious institutions.
BENCHMARKS counts on 29 partner organizations. Six universities and nine research institutes with a strong track record in soil health research and a history of involvement in relevant policy initiatives. The consortium is also supported by an advisory board coming from a wide range of prestigious institutions.
Wageningen University & Research
Wageningen University, part of Wageningen University & Research, is the only university in the Netherlands that specifically focuses on the theme ‘healthy food and living environment’. We do so by working closely together with governments and the business community. Our research and education are based on a fundamental scientific approach and accordingly strongly geared toward application in practice. This is achieved through the close collaboration between different fields of expertise including both natural and social sciences. The Soil Sciences groups at Wageningen University work together with a vision of enabling more sustainable use and management of soil resources for improved quality of life and a resilient environment. Our mission is to advance understanding of dynamic interactions between physical, biological and chemical soil properties and processes across a landscape continuum, and impacts of land use and management on soil quality and ecosystem functioning. The Soil Science groups have state of the art research facilities that provide a range of technical expertise and are utilised for education, research and by external parties such as companies, farmers and student organisations.
WUR – Soil Biology Group
The aim to the Soil Biology Group is to advance and share knowledge on how soil life can improve the quality and functioning of soils in agroecosystems around the world. Most of our research focusses on two big themes that embody some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity: Soils in a changing climate (where we study the soil as a source and sink of greenhouse gasses; as well as resilience of agricultural systems to climate change) and Fertile soils (where we focus on soil fertility in the broadest context). The ultimate aim of our research is to help develop more sustainable agroecosystems.
WUR – Soil Geography and Landscape Group
The Soil Geography and Landscape group (SGL) is part of the Wageningen University Soil Science cluster. Our mission is to improve and share understanding of soil patterns and landscape dynamics. We take an integrative approach that combines biophysical and human elements to gain insight in past, present and future system dynamics, and to support sustainable land management. The soil geography and landscape group has a strong research record on developing quantitative methods for obtaining soil patterns at different scales, using expert knowledge, modelling and digital soil science. These methods further support interpretations in the context of land evaluation, focusing on soil and water quality and the sustainability of land utilization types.
WUR – Soil Physics and Land Management
Research in the chair group Soil Physics and Land Management (SLM) focuses on: i) flow and transport processes of water and solutes through and over the soil system and surrounding water bodies at different temporal and spatial scales, ii) interactions between soil, water and plants, and iii) land use and management with regard to ecosystem degradation, and the design and economic impact assessment of technologies for soil and water conservation and restoration. The SLM group has long-term experience in areas affected by different forms of soil and water degradation in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and in Europe. SLM has a track record in coordinating large projects focusing on soil, water and agricultural land management related topics, including RECARE, iSQAPER, SPRINT and MINAGRIS.
WUR – Farming Systems Ecology Group
The Farming Systems Ecology (FSE) Group of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) focuses on the analysis and redesign of farming systems and foodscapes, so that they deliver multiple benefits to humankind, using natural processes as our starting point. Our multi-disciplinary team includes expertise in (complex) systems analysis, modelling, agro-ecology, co-innovation, policy formation and immersive education. We uniquely combine a strong platform of simulation models with hands-on, empirical assessments of outstanding examples of sustainable farms and landscapes in all continents.
AGES operates the federal laboratories related to food safety (food and feed analysis, water analysis, residues analysis) and radiation protection, the main diagnostic laboratories related to food safety and human health, animal health, and plant health. AGES conducts research in these areas and is responsible for integrated risk assessment. Approximately 1,430 persons are employed at AGES with more than 40% of scientists or experts with academic degrees in nearly all disciplines related to food and health safety. The department for Soil Health and Plant Nutrition is responsible for soil analysis, soil monitoring and fertilisation tasks in the context of sustainable plant production as well as for national fertiliser control.
Climate Farmers is building essential infrastructure for policy and industry to scale regenerative agriculture in Europe systemically. The organisation develops Carbon+ Credits, high-quality carbon credits from agriculture that serve as a transition finance tool for farmers on the journey of shifting their farming systems towards regeneration. At the same time, Climate Farmers uses data-supported methods and works together with local coaches to help interested farmers to transition their farms towards regenerative agriculture. Applied methods and tools are designed to holistically generate context-specific impact. A monitoring system determines the benefits of regenerative agriculture that go beyond carbon capture and include biodiversity, water retention & quality and nutrient cycling.
National Research Council
The National Research Council (CNR) is the largest Italian public research institution (more than 8.000 employees) performing multidisciplinary activities.
The Institute for Mediterranean Agricultural and Forestry Systems (ISAFOM), belong to CNR, will participate to BENCHMARKS project. Its mission is to pursue better understanding of biophysical processes in agro-forest systems for improving the productivity of agriculture and forests through a sustainable land and water use.
CNR-ISAFOM has high expertise on soil hydrology, pedology, soil spatial variability, modelling of the soil-vegetation-atmosphere system, GIS and DSS. This expertise has been consolidated in the context of both national (e.g., PRIN, PON) and international projects funded by EU (e.g., LIFE+, ERANET, H2020).
Commonland is an international non-profit working with local partners across the world to transform degraded landscapes into healthy places where people, business and nature can thrive together. Commonland is on a mission to regenerate 100 million hectares of land by 2040. An initiator, catalyst and enabler of large-scale and long-term restoration initiatives, Commonland is the creator of the 4Returns framework – a holistic landscape restoration framework that prioritises returns not only for local businesses, but also local communities, people, and nature too.
University of Napoli Federico II - CRISP
CRISP is an Interdepartmental Centre of University of Napoli Federico II specifically devoted to research in Geospatial Decision Support System also incorporating the Earth Critical Zone concept and addressing applications in sustainable agriculture and environment.
CRISP is constituted by highly selected transdisciplinary professionals from four different Departments of University of Napoli Federico II (Agricultural, Earth Science, Architecture and Humanistic Studies). Its activities include soil database and mapping, Land Evaluation, hydropedology, soil spatial variability, applied geology, hydrogeology, soil modelling, micromorphology, soil degradation studies.
CRISP team has obtained both international scientific credit and much contract work to handle practical landscape issues.
Spanish National Research Council - CSIC
The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) is the largest public research institution in Spain. Its main objective is to develop and promote scientific research to contribute to advancing knowledge and economic, social and cultural development. CEBAS-CSIC is one of its multidisciplinary institutes located in south-eastern Spain and dedicated to performing applied research in the fields of Agricultural Sciences, Food Science and Technology, and Natural Resources. At CEBAS-CSIC, the Soil and Water Conservation Research Group performs interdisciplinary research to identify and evaluate Sustainable Land Management and landscape restoration strategies to increase soil health and ecosystem services in agricultural and (semi)natural ecosystems.
Global Change Research Institute CAS
Global Change Research Institute CAS (CzechGlobe) conducts comprehensive research on issues of the global climate change and its impacts on the atmosphere, terrestrial ecosystems and human society. The institute operates extensive research facility CzeCOS consisting of network of permanent
ecosystem research stations (contributing to ICOS), atmospheric research station (contributing to ACTRIS), laboratory of metabolomics, system of long-term impact experiments (contributing to AnAEE and eLTER) and a flying laboratory of imaging systems (contributing to EUFAR). CzechGlobe developed Czech drought monitoring system, national early warning systems for crop yield forecasting, monitoring of selected biotic and abiotic risks for farmers, wild-fire forecasting.
Direção Regional de Agricultura E Pescas do Centro
The Regional Directorate of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Center belongs to the structure of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, is a peripheral service of the direct administration of the State, endowed with administrative autonomy. Its scope covers a geographical area composed of 78 municipalities, with proximity services in almost all of them. The Central Region covers an area of 23,666 km2 (25.7% of the national territory).
The DRAP Centre’s mission is to participate in the formulation and implementation of policies in the areas of agriculture, rural development and fisheries and to contribute to the implementation of policies in the areas of food security, animal protection, plant health, conservation of nature and forests within the framework of efficient local resource management.
ERSILIA Foundation was founded in 2004 as a private non-profit foundation devoted to promote inter and transdisciplinary knowledge in order to enhance our capacity to meet contemporary global (urban) challenges.
More specifically ERSILIA promotes the dissemination and communication of scientific and humanistic knowledge, in all its manifestations. We design strategies for inter/transdisciplinary learning and research; facilitate workshops and training courses for collective decision-making, aimed at promoting social and environmental impacts awareness; design and develop innovative and creative multimedia platforms and educational content; encourage knowledge alliance between businesses, universities, research centres and civic associations; and share the knowledge acquired in R+D projects and make educational
resources freely accessible through the internet. We have been participating in different european research projects such as INTREPID, REBALANCE, BUILD or RUSTIK.
Exploitatie Reservegronden Flevoland
ERF B.V. is a large private organic agriculture company in The Netherlands with a team of enthusiastic people. They strive daily to invest in a healthy, fertile Flevoland soil and to realize a large yield of tasty organic products. Its cultivated surface constitutes about 1100 hectares. On average, ERF B.V. is growing around 15 organic arable and vegetable crops such as cereals, peas, potato, red beet and parsnip.
The company plays a leading role in the development of sustainable food production. The large production scale allows for the introduction and experimenting with various kinds of innovative mechanization and production techniques in the cultivation as well as in the processing of the products. To combine landscape biodiversity and sustainable production, the company has started experimenting with various kinds of mixed cropping systems and crop diversity in time and space. One of the methods used is stripcropping.
The production sites are mainly located at city borders. Therefore, citizens can witness food production without being burdened by the use of synthetic pesticides.
The Regeneration Academy is an organization whose mission is to use education as a tool to regenerate the land. We give young entrepreneurs, farmers and students the knowledge and resources to become innovators in the fields of regenerative agriculture and ecosystem restoration. In our regenerative agriculture HUB, we connect young entrepreneurs, students, farmers and academics to find solutions to revitalize the Spanish countryside, contributing to the transition to a better future. These connections create opportunities for innovative regenerative farming methods for semi-arid areas which then are tested through our (student) research programs to ensure they are truly beneficial in our context.
GENESIS is the rating and monitoring agency for the environmental impact (biodiversity, climate, water, and fertility) of agricultural sourcing. The rating system is based on real measurements of the soil health used for this sourcing, based on soil sampling, analysis, and scoring of biological, carbon, and pollution parameters.
GENESIS’ goal is the development of greener agricultural sourcing. GENESIS’s strategy is to contribute through the development of knowledge of the environmental impact of agricultural practices, as well as to develop a standard to measure the state of soil health and the environmental impact of agriculture. In this context, Genesis is involved in a number of standardization projects for impact indicators (European Union, SBTN, ISO-AFNOR, WWF, etc.).
GRAND FARM is a 90 hectare research and demonstration farm, focusing on the topics Soil-Health, Agroforestry and Market Gardening. Every year, ten to fifteen different research projects are conducted together with universities and research institutes. GRAND FARM is part of the Global Network of Lighthouse Farms, an initiative from Wageningen University. In 2019 Alfred established GRAND GARTEN as a market garden, where a team of young university graduates is producing all year round organic vegetable for the regional market and doing research and demonstration activities. At the Benchmarks project, GRAND GARTEN acts as a case study.
Institut National de Recherche pour l'Agriculture, l'Alimentation et l'Environnement
INRAE is the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. Its mission is to carry out excellent science in order to provide innovative solutions addressing global challenges, notably climate change, biodiversity and food security while at the same time enabling the much needed agro-ecological, nutritional and energy transitions. This research also serves policy making from regional to international levels, thereby contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. The INRAE teams participating to BENCHMARKS are covering several disciplines (e.g. soil research, data sciences, monitoring, agronomy, forestry, modelling…) and are highly involved in national and international initiatives and research programs on soil issues (e.g. EJP SOIL, GSP, EUSO).
AgroParisTech – the National Institute of Technology for Life, Food, and Environmental Sciences, is the leading French higher education and research institution aiming at addressing some of the main global challenges of the 21st century: feeding a growing population while sustainably managing territories, preserving natural resources, supporting innovation and integrating the bioeconomy. It offers high level training for Master of Science in Engineering, Master of Science and PhD students & lifelong learning programs, while focusing on research and innovation thanks to its 21 joint research units . In 2021, it was ranked 3rd at European level and 4th at global level by QS Ranking, subject “Agriculture and Forestry” and ranked 17th by the Shanghai Ranking’s global ranking of academic subjects (Agricultural Sciences). AgroParisTech is founding member of Université Paris-Saclay, ranked 16th globally and 1st in continental Europe by the 2022 Shanghai ranking (ARWU). AgroParisTech connects with its socio-economic environment through different activities including setting-up Research and sponsored chairs.
Université de Lorraine
With 62,000 students and an outreach across 2 metropolises (Metz & Nancy), Université de Lorraine invests wholeheartedly in knowledge production and sharing. It is committed to raising the level of citizens’ educational attainment through intensive research involving both the basic and applied strands. From basic research to the humanities, UL is building cross-disciplinary ecosystems to drive innovation, which are accelerating the transfer of knowledge to practical applications. UL joined the European alliance EURECA-PRO, which now comprises nine universities. In order to maintain its status as a European university, this European scientific network is pursuing its strategy focused on the major challenge of the ecological transition.
ISRIC – World Soil Information is an independent, science-based foundation under Dutch law. The institute was founded in 1966 following a recommendation of the International Soil Science Society (ISSS) and a resolution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
ISRIC has a mission to serve the international community with information about the world’s soil resources to help addressing major global issues. With partners, it produces and serves quality-assured soil information at global, regional and national levels. It stimulates the use of this information to address global challenges such as improving food security, combatting land degradation, and mitigating and adapting to climate change through capacity building, awareness raising and direct cooperation with users and clients.
ISRIC has a dedicated capacity-building programme for soil information gathering, handling and provisioning, consisting of on-the-job training, guest research and an annual spring school on these topics.
ISRIC has been accredited as World Data Centre for Soils (WDC-Soils) in 1998 by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU, now ICS (International Council for Science). Member organizations of the ISC-World Data System (WDS) have a strong and tangible commitment to open data sharing, data and service quality, and data preservation. For this, implicitly, they need to develop and maintain a comprehensive spatial data infrastructure (SDI) to secure storing, handling, and provisioning of a wide range of soil data, using defined workflows and standards, as required for CoreTrustSeal certified repositories.
ISRIC operates in four priority areas:
- Setting standards and providing reference for soil information;
- Providing of soil information;
- Education, capacity building and advocacy; and
- Innovative data and information products for development.
Jozef Stefan Institute
The Jozef Stefan Institute is a research institution for basic and applied research in natural sciences and technology based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The Institute is specialized in research in physics, chemistry and biochemistry, electronics and information science, nuclear technology, energy utilization and environmental science. The proposed project BENCHMARKS is carried out by the Knowledge Technologies Department, which conducts research in the field of artificial intelligence (machine learning, data and text mining) and knowledge technologies (decision modelling and decision support systems). The department applies scientific methods to research and practical problems in the fields of agronomy, forestry, environmental and life sciences.
Natural Resources Institute Finland
The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is a research organisation that builds sustainable future and well-being from renewable natural resources. Luke is operating under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland.
Luke resolves challenges in the sustainable and profitable use of renewable natural resources in four phenomenon-based research programmes: 1. Climate-Smart Carbon Cycle, 2. Profitable and responsible primary production, 3. Adaptive and Resilient Bioeconomy, 4. Circular bioeconomy. In addition to research activities, Luke has statutory duties, and it compiles Finland’s official food and natural resources statistics. Luke employs some 1,300 people and operates in 24 locations in Finland. Headquarter is in Helsinki.
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) is Norway’s leading institution for applied ecological research, with broad-based expertise on the genetic, population, species, ecosystem and landscape level, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal marine environments. Areas of international-level applied research relevant for BENCHMARKS are the Centre for Biodiversity Genetics, monitoring biodiversity and ecosystem change, carbon turnover and sequestration, indicators and assessments of ecological condition, GIS and remote-sensing enabled indicators, restoration ecology, environmental governance and participatory processes. NINA researchers participate in the IPBES assessments (Global Assessment 2019, Values assessment 2022, Transformative change (ongoing) https://ipbes.net/).
Masarykova Univerzita- RECETOX
𝗥𝗘𝗖𝗘𝗧𝗢𝗫, as an independent 𝗥𝗘search 𝗖𝗘ntre for 𝗧𝗢𝗫ic compounds, operating within the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, in Brno, Czech Republic, fulfils three roles – AN ACADEMIC INSTITUTION providing university education, A RESEARCH CENTRE working on the transformation of research into practical applications & A BODY supporting the implementation of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS).
We closely cooperate with the Region of South-Moravia and the City of Brno to innovate the living conditions of Brno citizens. RECETOX is leading the EIRENE Research Infrastructure aiming to pioneer the first EU infrastructure on human exposome.
University of Coimbra
The University of Coimbra (UC) is the oldest Portuguese higher education institution, developing activities since 1290 AD. UC offers an appropriated infrastructure supporting cultural, training, and educational activities, such as the Common Library, the University Stadium, and a Botanical Garden. UC is part of a UNESCO World Heritage place, “University of Coimbra, Alta and Sofia”, since 2013.
The Centre for Functional Ecology – Science for People & the Planet (CFE) is an R&D unit of UC that brings together researchers from all fields of ecology, integrating knowledge from gene to the biome level to disentangle the mechanisms responsible for biodiversity maintenance and the composition, structure and functioning of biological communities and ecosystems.
Leibniz-Zentrum Für Agrarlandschaftsforschung - ZALF
Our mission is to deliver solutions for sustainable agriculture – together with society. As a contribution to overcoming global challenges such as climate change, food security, biodiversity conservation and resource scarcity, we develop and design crop systems, integrated in their landscape contexts, that combine food security with sustainability. Therefore we process complex landscape data with a unique set of experimental methods, new technologies and models as well as socio-economic approaches.
ZALF research is integrated systems research: starting from processes in soils and plants to causal relationships on the field and landscape level up to global impacts and complex interactions between landscapes, society and economy.
Earthwatch Europe is an environmental charity with science at its heart. Our planet – and all life on it – is facing unprecedented challenges. Climate change and loss of biodiversity threaten our very existence and the beauty of the world as we know it. Science has identified the causes of these challenges, and science is essential if we’re to face and solve them. At Earthwatch, we connect people with the natural world, monitor the health of our natural resources, and inform the actions that will have the greatest positive impact. We work together with scientists, businesses, civil society and policy-makers to drive the change we need to live within our means and in balance with nature.
Our current priorities
Climate resilience and biodiversity in urban settings. Because, with two thirds of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050, humanity needs to urgently adapt to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, and nature actually has many of the answers we need.
Freshwater pollution. Because a world of 9 billion people needs to conserve and protect every drop of fresh water that we have.
Agricultural land management. Because farming is on the frontline of almost all the challenges we face: feeding the world, conserving fresh water, protecting biodiversity and conserving soil health.
The next generation. Because one day it will be up to them to protect the natural world, and they need the knowledge and skills to do it.
What we do
We are an IRO (Independent Research Organisation) and we use science to better understand the environmental challenges we face, and to find solutions to these issues. We are leaders in – and passionate advocates of – citizen science: engaging the public in research.
The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is a global centre of excellence on biodiversity and nature’s contribution to society and the economy.
We work at the interface of science, policy, and practice to tackle the global crisis facing nature and support the transition to a sustainable future for people and the planet.
FiBL is one of the world’s leading organic farming research and technology transfer centres dedicated to sustainable agriculture with about 300 staff members. It is an independent, non-profit research institute with the aim of advancing cutting-edge science particularly in the field of organic farming. The institute bridges basic and applied research and the team works together with farmers and farmers’ organisations to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions to boost agricultural productivity while never losing sight of environmental, health and socio-economic impacts. The Department of Soil Sciences focuses on improving the efficiency and sustainability of cropping systems. It has thorough expertise on soil quality and functions, with an emphasis on soil biology, including the diversity of soil microbial communities and their role in nutrient cycling.
Institute for Applied Plant Biology
Institute for applied plant biology (IAP) – Experts for monitoring programs in forest ecosystems and urban trees.
We have been conducting research in the fields of forest ecology and plant physiology for over forty years. Our main concern is the health of forests and urban trees in Switzerland. The IAP is a private research institute founded in 1980 by Prof. Dr. Walter Flückiger, Dr. Heidi Flückiger and Dr. Sabine Braun in Schönenbuch (BL). Our main clients are several Swiss cantons and the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). The main projects are the Intercantonal Forest Observation Monitoring Programme with about 190 managed forests sites all over Switzerland and the long-term monitoring of soil solution sampled monthly at 45 forests site. The data are analysed for effects of excessive nitrogen deposition, soil acidification and ozone on forest health and the results are used in national negotiations on pollution control and in UNECE working groups on effects for setting critical levels and loads.